Enter Episcopal French teacher Julien Prevost’s classroom and you’ll find what you might expect in a French language classroom – flags, photos from visits to France and French mementos. Prevost earned a master’s degree in teaching French from the University of Lorraine in France and completed additional training in London earning a post-graduate certificate in education in French and German from the University of Cumbria. As you might expect, Prevost speaks with a French flair and has a passion for his culture. What you might not expect is his passion and commitment to music.
Prevost has had a passion for music since he was seven years old and first picked up the cello. He has cultivated his cello talent over the years and even earned a bachelor’s degree in teaching the instrument. Prevost has performed in amateur orchestras in France, London and the United States. He even enjoyed a five year stint in a rock band called “The Spangles.” At Episcopal, Prevost has performed with Knight Train and played cello for the productions of Les Misérables and Evangeline. Once a month he also performs for Upper School students in Chapel.
Music is about so much more than playing notes for Prevost. “It’s like playing a sport or learning a language,” he says. “It requires practice every day, hard work and discipline.” Prevost says numerous life skills can be acquired through the musical experience including patience, perseverance and time management. He says musicians also develop the confidence needed to perform and a sense of commitment to being part of an ensemble. Prevost began his teaching career as a cello teacher in France and he enjoyed the opportunity to impart these lessons to his students. However, he eventually felt the need for a new adventure and thus began his French language teaching career.
As a French teacher Prevost thought he would have more opportunities for travel. He gained the opportunity to travel and so much more. While in London Prevost met Allison, an American originally from the Lafayette area. Louisiana’s French influence made it easy for Prevost to relocate to the Bayou State to join her. Now years later, Prevost and Allison have made a life together and are raising their son, Charles, in a bilingual home. Prevost says young Charles already loves music and he enjoys sharing it with him.
What music does Prevost listen to in his own car? “Classical,” he says. After pausing he adds that he also listens to rock, rap and a variety of French and American artists. He is even familiar with Louisiana’s Cajun music. Prevost says he doesn’t like to put barriers on the music he enjoys and is open to a range of genres. This classical performer says he’s also open to playing a variety of music from jazz to rock.
Being open to new adventures and new experiences has helped Prevost create a life he couldn’t imagine when he first began playing cello all those years ago in Nancy, France. He has followed his passion and continues to make beautiful music in the process.
In a corner classroom of the Academic Commons, students are learning lessons taken straight from the headlines. Recently, a group of juniors and seniors analyzed fabric fibers found at a makeshift crime scene to determine who committed the crime. Students entered a hall roped off by crime scene tape and collected fibers from within a “chalk” outline. They were then tasked with looking at the fibers with a dissecting microscope or a digital camera to identify the type of fiber present. Prior to studying fibers, students spent several class periods learning the details of fingerprinting. They used inks and brushes that you might expect to find in a crime lab. There were balloons taped up in the lab areas with dusty print marks appearing faintly on them. Both lessons were engaging and hands-on.
This is Upper School Forensic Science
In speaking with Upper School science department chair Sarah Pulliam, it’s easy to feel her enthusiasm for the class. “Episcopal is a school that is open to letting people teach their expertise and provide students with a variety of exciting learning opportunities,” she says. Forensic science is back by popular demand this year because students expressed interest in additional science electives. Pulliam says with many students using eighth grade physical science for Upper School credit, a large number of students are not required to take additional science courses once they reach their senior year. This opens up the possibility for students to take science courses simply because they are curious. With popular television shows depicting forensic science, Pulliam says this new course definitely has a “cool factor” and attracted more students than expected to enroll.
Pen and Paper Provide Insights into Personality
“Look at how you cross your t’s and dot your i’s,” said Pulliam in a recent class discussion. Students were learning the intricacies of handwriting analysis and how handwriting can be used in a criminal case. Pulliam showed students a news story regarding the ransom note in the Jon Benet Ramsey case. The students’ interest was sparked with one student even asking if the class could solve the case. After a discussion on what to look for when analyzing writing, students practiced analyzing their own handwriting as well as their classmates’ handwriting. To add excitement to the exercise, Pulliam had one student write a fake ransom note in which he tried to mask his writing traits. Students later had to try and guess who wrote it.
Senior Alexander Harlan says he enrolled in the course because criminal justice has always been a field of interest for him and he hopes the course will shed light on whether it’s an appropriate career choice. Already, he says he’s learned a lot. “There’s a lot more to investigating than I knew of,” he says.
Over the course of the semester, students will put their investigation skills to the test. They will study decomposition, bullet signatures, blood splatter and DNA analysis. The group will also take a trip to the state police crime lab where they will have the opportunity to see the science in action. For students who are particularly passionate about the field or who need additional science credits, the spring semester should prove to be equally as engaging. Beginning next semester, Upper School teacher Jennifer Purnell will teach a biotechnology course. With an increased interest among students in this topic, it should be a popular second act to forensics.
One of the strengths of the Episcopal experience is the opportunity for students to experience personalized learning. Students learn at their own pace and based on their own interests, while parents remain confident in the academic rigor of the course content. Teachers enjoy the opportunity to provide engaging lessons based on student feedback and requests. Forensic science in Upper School provides more evidence of what makes the Episcopal experience so special.
Congratulations to our eleven National Merit Semifinalists and three Commended Scholars!
According to the National Merit Scholarship Program, close to two million students compete each year, with approximately 16,000 making it to the semifinal round. Semifinalists are top scorers on the PSAT/NMSQT test in their state.
National Merit finalists will be announced in February with winners named in the spring. The selection committee reviews student grades, activities and leadership, as well as school information to determine the winners. Scholarships are then awarded from the National Merit Scholarship Program, corporations and colleges and universities.
This is a tremendous accomplishment for our students and we wish them luck in the finalist round.
Service Learning in Ninth Grade
Episcopal’s mission is to prepare graduates for college and for purposeful lives. The recent ninth grade retreat highlights the commitment to making this mission a reality. Each August members of the freshman class spend a Friday volunteering with local organizations. “It’s important for us to have students realize that service to others is one of the things that we view as important,” says Father Skully.
Students begin retreat day at one of five locations throughout Baton Rouge. This year students volunteered at the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank, Melrose Elementary School, the Knock Knock Children’s Museum, Front Yard Bikes and the Louisiana School for the Visually Impaired. Students assisted with everything from sorting food and cleaning up, to setting up for an event and painting.
“I want our students to be exposed to people who saw opportunities and made things happen,” says Father Skully. At each volunteer site, Father Skully ensures that an organization representative speaks with students about the organization’s mission and purpose. At the food bank students learned about the reality of Baton Rouge food shortages, the need for volunteers and the importance of food donations. At Front Yard Bikes students learned how the organization began because the founder saw a need and addressed it. Interaction with the representatives helps make the volunteer experience much more meaningful for students. The hope is that students feel empowered to serve others and to address the needs of their community.
The need to act and make a difference is a key component of the Episcopal experience. The National Association of Episcopal Schools (NAES) believes that one of the principal qualities of an Episcopal school, is that the institutions work for social justice through community service and service learning. Through service learning, students connect what they learn in class to real world issues, then explore and work toward solutions, all while reflecting meaningfully on their experiences and efforts.
Focus on Friendship in Sixth Grade
Problem solving and building new friendships outside of the classroom are hallmarks of the annual sixth grade retreat. “Friendship Retreat gives 6th graders an opportunity to begin forging an identity as a group,” says English teacher Martha Guarisco. Guarisco and her fellow teachers will make the day even more exciting this year by setting everything to a Harry Potter theme. (It’s hard to say who loves the book series more, the students or the teachers.) The excitement of the day helps students make friendships and develop the peer support system that will be there for them during the Middle School transition years. “Sixth grade retreat is a chance for students to get to know each other,” says math teacher Nancy Callaway. “They get to enjoy each other’s company in a very relaxed atmosphere.” Such an experience is also good for the teachers. “I think the retreat gives teachers a chance early in the year to see the students in a relaxed, non-academic setting, which is usually fun and enlightening,” says science teacher Stacy Hill. “This is a fun day away from campus that allows us to come together as a sixth grade community,” says social studies teacher Virginia Day.
This year’s sixth grade retreat is slated for Friday, September 13th.
Learning about Leadership in Fifth Grade
“I call on you to imagine what it looks like to be a leader of Lower School.” Bridget Henderson
Episcopal fifth graders recently participated in a retreat day of their own. Lower School Division Head Bridget Henderson advised students that the day would focus on their new role as Lower School leaders. Students self-organized and led group activities. The ten year olds also discussed meaningful topics such as altruism, supporting each other and serving as a role model for their younger Lower School counterparts. “The fifth grade year at Episcopal is special because fifth graders are the leaders of the Lower School,” says Henderson. “We wanted to provide a chance for the students to bond as a class and to prepare themselves for the leadership opportunities ahead.”
The retreat culminated with the traditional fifth grade sweatshirt ceremony in the Chapel. Together, students sang songs reflecting a commitment to servant leadership and gratitude. Amid the Louisiana heat and humidity, students then donned Class of 2027 sweatshirts. By design, the sleeves were too long and the hems fell well below the waist so that they can be worn for multiple years. Father Skully advised the students that the sweatshirts represent their unity as one class working together toward the common goal of completing their education. While the shirts appear large now, the students will quickly grow and one day those sleeves that fell below the hand will barely reach the wrist. As this transformation accelerates, hopefully the students will remember the lessons on leadership and compassion that were imparted to them on fifth grade retreat day.
Episcopal offers numerous retreat opportunities to help students develop a sense of community. The bonds created as a result of these experiences can last a lifetime and will be remembered long after they leave Woodland Ridge Boulevard.
Do you have a favorite retreat memory? Share it in the comments below.
Picture it. The year was 2012. The scene: a frigid March morning in Buffalo where the snow stood five feet deep on the sides of nearly every road in Western New York. Now three and a half months into a relentless gray winter broken only by the rhythmic cycle of lake effect snowstorms dropping 8-20 inches of the white flakes every week or so, a younger, slimmer version of me dragged himself out of bed to drive twenty minutes away to the University at Buffalo History Department to wait in a nondescript office for the next two hours. The ride in was cold. My car didn’t actually fully get toasty until I had entered the university parking lot. But I had an obligation to fulfill every Thursday between 8:30 and 10:30: office hours. Every week without fail, I showed up on my “off” day (which was usually also devoted to reading one entire book and writing a response paper for one of my three graduate courses) to make myself available to students who might have questions about how to succeed in their World Civilizations or U.S. History course.
Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of students did not even bother to do that: show up.
When I was hired at Episcopal, I decided to highlight the importance of showing up to office hours to all of my students. I argue that it is the single most underutilized aspect of their high school and college careers. Showing up to office hours even once a month for each class leads to a whole list of benefits for students. These include but are not limited to:
If our students leave Episcopal and are comfortable approaching their college professors, managers, and bosses, they are more likely to succeed. In addition to getting higher grades, they turn their classroom experiences into early-career-defining moments. Last year, for example, an alum came back to campus and mentioned how stunned she was that so many of her college classmates did not take lectures and office hours seriously. She said that she sat in the front row for each class meeting, made sure to ask at least one meaningful content-related question per lecture, and went to office hours to meet with her professor for at least 10-15 minutes each week to clarify her own reading notes. Not only was the student regarded by the faculty in her department as a rock star by the end of her first semester of Freshman year, but she was also offered a paid summer internship by one of her professors because they recognized her potential. She is not the only one. I’ve lost count of how many students have gone on to serve on Capitol Hill, work for large non-profit organizations, and intern for large, impressive corporations during the summer.
The one thing most of them have in common? They went to office hours. Intentionally. Consistently. Doing so gave them a leg up on the students who had not. Professors would love to point serious students in the direction of opportunities that would turn their majors and minors into a career by the time they leave with a Bachelor’s degree in hand. While everyone else is avoiding office hours, I’m proud to hear that a good number of Episcopal alums who developed the habit of going to office hours to meet with instructors continue to show up.
Dr. Billy Pritchard
Dr. Billy Pritchard is a native of Winn Parish, Louisiana. He and his wife, Lisa, came to Episcopal in 2015 after spending the previous decade in Buffalo, New York. Dr. Pritchard is a 1999 graduate of the Louisiana School of Math, Science, and the Arts. In addition, he earned a bachelor’s degree from Centenary College of Louisiana, a master’s degree from Ole Miss and doctorate from SUNY-Buffalo. Dr. Pritchard teaches U.S. History, Honors AP U.S. History, American Presidency and the Civil Rights Movement.
It always feels like the school year is officially underway once the kindergarten/senior buddy program kicks off. Students had their first meeting this week on the kindergarten playground. Despite the August heat, students were all smiles as they played together. It was a great start to an annual tradition.
What would you do without air conditioning or climate control in the Louisiana heat?
This question was just one of the many posed to students participating in this year’s Baton Rouge Energy Venture Camp. This is the sixth year that area students have had the opportunity to participate in this 40-hour STEM camp. Upper School science teacher Jeannette Thompson, who is one of the camp leads, says the experience is intense and a lot of fun. “I love teaching camps,” she says. Thompson says a camp is the ideal classroom because there is no pressure to make a certain grade. Students can simply enjoy learning and exploring their curiosity regarding the concepts.
The Baton Rouge Energy Venture Camp is a hands-on learning experience for high school students throughout the capital region. For the first time, campers kicked off the experience on Episcopal’s campus where they reviewed the basic parameters of science. Over the course of the week, students participated in activities at Baton Rouge Community College and LSU. According to the camp description, the camp provides students the opportunity “to explore the entire process of energy development from how oil and natural gas are formed to the ways various types of energy are used.” Students build a generator, a car, a windmill and a solar house – all in one week! The camp description also says students learn about the concepts of photosynthesis, distillation, catalysts, pressure, temperature, density, fracking, combustion and more. In a sweet and chilly highlight, students even went to the LSU Dairy Store to learn more about air conditioning and refrigeration.
Thompson says while there are a lot of topics covered in just a short period of time, students process the information well. She says the camp instructors design the experience so that it is meaningful and relates to real life. “We don’t lecture for more than twenty minutes at a time,” says Thompson. “They need to be doing something because we only have one week.” As a result of the intense pace and the hands-on learning experiences, students walk away from the camp with a deeper understanding of the lessons they learn in a more traditional school classroom setting. The camp helps students “make connections to learning theories,” says Thompson. As students are making those connections they are enjoying the experience. “I love the camp because I get to meet people that are also interested in science and it is high paced and fun,” says Episcopal sophomore Andrea Thompson.
To ensure the campers are making connections, the camp ends each year with students presenting information on one concept they’ve learned. Thompson says this is a great way for students to showcase their new knowledge and for instructors to know for sure that students have truly gained something from the experience. Thompson says former campers often report back that what they learned at camp helped them tremendously once they returned to school or even once they have moved on to college.
“We hope to get them to like science and to understand science,” says Thompson. For this former chemical engineer, it is very rewarding to see the excitement on the faces of the campers and students when they fully grasp a concept or accomplish their goal and realize it is possible and even easy. With the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting nearly 8.6 million STEM jobs in 2015 and continued career growth expected, it is important to spark an interest in these fields early. Thompson and her fellow Baton Rouge Energy Venture Camp organizers are certainly doing their part to inspire young people to enter the field.
In 2002 a young Stephen Anderson was a senior at Episcopal. Even then he loved math and truly excelled in the subject. As a student Stephen was an early bird arriving on campus around 7 am each morning. He was the go-to guy for math tutoring among his fellow classmates and spent many mornings in the Student Center helping frazzled students prepare for exams. True to his talent and ambition, Stephen became a teacher and ultimately returned to his alma mater where he now serves as the Math Department Chair. Even after all these years, he remains committed to helping others understand and appreciate math and his enthusiasm for working with students is obvious. This lifelong commitment to learning has now earned him a spot as a state finalist for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching or PAEMST.
The PAEMST honors have been administered by the National Science Foundation since 1983. According to the award website, “The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) are the highest honors bestowed by the United States government specifically for K-12 science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and/or computer science teaching. Awardees reflect the expertise and dedication of the Nation’s teaching corps, and they demonstrate the positive impact of excellent teachers on student achievement.” Each year, the President may recognize up to 108 teachers from across the country with the award. Over the years, Episcopal has had several educators receive the honor, including former Math Department Chair Pam Goodner and Anderson’s own mentor, Kay Fenton.
“Being mentioned in the same breath as Kay Fenton is awesome,” says Anderson. He says Fenton played a significant role in inspiring him to become the teacher he is today. “I knew I wanted to teach and having a teacher as gifted as Kay allowed me to achieve that goal,” he says. Anderson uses lessons learned in Fenton’s classroom in his own lessons where he pushes students to learn and understand math, and he is honest and open with them in communicating about their progress. Even though he never had the opportunity to teach alongside Fenton, he is honored to have a connection to her again through the PAEMST.
Former department chair Pam Goodner nominated Anderson for the PAEMST last fall. As you might expect with an award of such magnitude, the application process is grueling. Once Anderson was nominated, he had to submit a resume, essays about his teaching philosophy, letters of recommendation and even a video showing him in action in the classroom. Because teachers are strongly focused on day-to-day activities and preparing for the next lesson, this can be hard, but Anderson says it was also very affirming. “I haven’t thought so carefully about why I do what I do the way I do, since grad school,” he says.
This July, Anderson received the news that he was named a Louisiana finalist. State finalists are chosen by a selection committee made up of mathematicians, scientists, researchers and classroom teachers. Once selected for state recognition, the finalists are eligible for the national honor which is chosen by a national committee of industry experts. Anderson says national honorees will be announced sometime next year. In the meantime, Anderson will be celebrated in Louisiana as an exemplary math teacher. In September, he and the other finalists will be recognized at a luncheon at the Governor’s Mansion. In November, he will also participate in the Louisiana Math and Science Conference.
Certainly, his mentors, colleagues and even his fellow grads from 2002 are not surprised to see Stephen earn PAEMST recognition. It is amazing to think that it all started so long ago with a senior who had a passion for figures and a gift for teaching others.
Episcopal PAEMST Honorees
Kay Fenton – 1996
Linda Fletcher – 1995
Pam Goodner – 2009
Emily Lamont – 1993
Episcopal faculty and staff truly are exceptional. In addition to having a PAEMST honoree on staff, Thesis Director Katie Sutcliffe was named a 2019 U.S. Presidential Scholars Program Distinguished Teacher. Each year, U.S. Presidential Scholar student honorees are asked to name the teacher who has had the biggest impact on his or her life. Episcopal’s Douglas Robins, who was named a 2019 U.S. Presidential Scholar, submitted Sutcliffe as that teacher. “You taught me the most important lesson that I have ever learned: becoming okay with uncertainty,” writes Robins. “You taught me that the human experience is centered around uncertainty and should not be something to dread but something to cherish. You showed me that curiosity should be infectious and how curiosity can change the world.”
Like Anderson, Sutcliffe appreciates the opportunity such recognition provides teachers to pause and appreciate their role as an educator. “It’s nice to realize that what you do is making an impact,” she says. She also values the opportunity to be associated with such amazingly motivated and driven students. “I don’t think students realize that we as teachers are honored to be a part of their work,” she says.
The synergy between Episcopal teachers and students is a key factor in the Episcopal experience. Teachers and students are working together in a way that brings meaning and purpose to their lives. Congratulations to Stephen and Katie and all of the outstanding teachers who give their all to prepare our students to lead the next generation.
Congratulate or thank your favorite Episcopal teacher in the comments below.
The start of the 2019-2020 school year officially got underway with the annual Upper School Convocation. There was excitement and anticipation in the air as students, faculty and staff gathered in the Chapel. School officers were sworn in and new members of the Episcopal community signed the school’s Honor Code. Division Head Tom Forti welcomed everyone back to campus. You can read his address below.
Thank you for the opportunity to deliver remarks that signal the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year. Recognizing the importance of this occasion, I spent a great deal of time thinking about what to say and how to say it. Should I find a bunch of quotes about education and beginning a new school year? No. How about a powerpoint or presentation that allows you to follow along - word for word - with what I am saying? Nope. What say we put up a bunch of pictures that depict school life here at Episcopal? Not bad, but I feared it would take away from the undivided attention I’m asking you for during the next few minutes. So, I decided to go it alone.
Here at Episcopal, we use the letter E to brand ourselves in a number of ways. The small-cap e represents our e-Fund fundraising efforts. The old English E can be seen on our athletic uniforms, as can the block style E. And they all stand for and represent Episcopal.
What I’m asking you to do, as we dive into this new school year is to think about the E in a slightly more personal way. Think about these words and their meaning - energy, enthusiasm, empathy, effort and earnestness. I ask you to bring these to the table each day.
From my perspective your mere presence on campus gives us energy and enthusiasm. Please let that carry over into all you do. Be empathetic - care for and about one another. Put forth maximum effort - in the classroom, on stage, on the athletic fields and in the community. And be earnest in the things that require you to be. It is this quality that I ask you to pay particular attention to as we celebrate this morning with our Convocation Ceremony.
Episcopal has many beautiful and meaningful traditions, but none may embody who we are as a community more than this one. Signing the book and pledging your willingness and desire to abide by the Episcopal Honor Code is what Convocation is all about. It’s ironic that Convocation has long been associated with graduation - the end of a year, but here at Episcopal it signifies a beginning, a fresh start - one down the path less taken.
I am honored and humbled to be the Head of Upper School here and I sincerely hope that all of you, students and faculty, share my joy in what is sure to be an “E-mazing” year.
The Episcopal Honor Code
Head of Upper School